Positive Writer

Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

Exclusive Interview with Jeff Goins about Self-Publishing

Jeff’s the author of Goins Writer one of the most popular writing blogs online with over 200,000 monthly readers, the author of “Wrecked” and his latest book, “The Art of Work”. He’s also the founder and teacher of one of the fastest growing online courses for writers, Tribe Writers.

As successful and popular as Jeff Goins has become, he’s still a down-to-earth guy, whose number one goal is to help his readers, and especially his Tribe Writer students, achieve their writing dreams and more.


Interview with Jeff Goins:

Jeff, thank you for agreeing to this interview. You’ve been successfully helping writers become published authors through your Tribe Writers online course for several years now, and I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you a few questions about self-publishing, platform building, and your popular class.

Q: Today anyone can self-publish their work, which has created a publishing revolution whereby authors can completely bypasses the publishing gatekeepers. However, there are still a lot of people who see self-publishing as vanity publishing. What is your take on self-publishing and the “Publishing Revolution?”

I think it’s awesome. There used to be only one “legitimate” way to publish a book. Now, you have a choice. If you do the work of building a platform and connecting with an audience (as you have done, Bryan), you can choose how to publish. You don’t have to wait to be picked.

It’s a wonderful time where writers are the most empowered they’ve ever been. (Tweet)

Q: Do you believe self-publishing has lowered the overall quality of publishing?

I think any time you remove gatekeepers from a system that has existed for 500 years, you’re going to see a large influx of people exercising their freedom. And with that quantity comes a diminished quality — for awhile, anyway. But I believe as with anything, the cream will still rise to the top.

Now more than ever (since anyone can now publish), it’s important for you to set yourself apart as someone who has something important to say.

Q: Why should an author consider self-publishing?

Because you can. Because you will respect the publishing process more once you’ve done it. Because you’ll appreciate how hard it is to sell and market a book. It may even lead you to go with a traditional publisher next time or figure out how to work with a distributor. Or you may be awesome at it.

In any case, it’s a no-lose scenario. I often meet authors who first self-published and then leveraged that opportunity to get a traditional book contract. But that doesn’t even have to be the point; the point is:

You’ve got something to say, and the world needs to hear it. (Tweet)

Q: Should authors still seek out agents and attempt traditional publishing?

Not first, necessarily, but in addition to.

Q: Are there still benefits to working with a traditional publisher?

Yes, I think so. The main one being increased distribution and the ability to work with an entire team of experts (if you’re lucky).

Is it the only way or always the best way? No, of course not. But it should be an option you consider. And as with self-publishing, if you’ve built a platform, you will have a choice.

Q: In your experience what are the most important factors when self-publishing that authors should take into consideration?

There are three of them: 1) build an audience that anticipates your work BEFORE it comes out, 2) write a really good book, 3) and launch it well. The audience-building part is essential, especially for the self-published author. The quality of book will help you stand out from the masses. And a good launch will give your book enough lift to reach new people and give it a good shot at long-term sales.

Q: Tribe Writers is an online writing and platform course you created for authors who would like to build a platform and get the audience they deserve, as well as publish their work. In what ways is building a platform important for the self-published author?

It is essential. Without a platform, you’re gambling. Does that mean you can’t still succeed without one? No, of course not. But it raises the stakes and increases the risk. The best way to ensure your book sells is to build an audience around the content before you publish. And the best way to do that is through a platform that leverages permission and trust.

Q: For those who already have an established platform, how important is it to have a published book, regardless of how it is published?

My friend Michael Hyatt (former CEO of Thomas Nelson, a book publishing company) says a published book is still the number one way to identify yourself as a leader or expert in a category. I agree. But what I love even more about a book is that it’s a shareable idea, a consumable piece of content that spreads your message and connects with people.

I love blogging, but nothing connects with a reader quite like a book. Even with a substantial blog following, I’ve been surprised by how many new people my books have reached that my blog never could.

Q: Building a platform sounds great, but it’s not easy and a lot of people have written and published on their blogs and websites for years, but haven’t seen much in return for their time and effort. How does your Tribe Writers course help those who already have a platform such as a blog, but are still struggling to find an audience?

There are a few distinctions of the course. First, it focuses on the craft of writing, particularly the importance of a writer’s voice. Everything hinges on that.

Then, we dive into the idea of writing for a worldview, which is a fancy way of saying we get really intentional about writing for a specific audience, one that connects with your unique perspective.

And then we emphasize the importance of service, of pushing your audience and challenging your readers in ways that might not be comfortable but are definitely good.

All of that together creates a pretty powerful platform.

Q: You’ve reached your first year’s anniversary with Tribe Writers, congratulations! How does that feel, did you reach as many people as you expected, and where do you plan to take the course in the next year?

More. Much more. I’ve been amazed at the community that’s formed around this course. In many ways, the relationships and connections are far more valuable than the content. I’m honored to be a part of it.

Q: There are a lot of authors who are struggling to share their message and get their work published, and are on the verge of giving up and letting go of their dream. What would you like to say to those who are frustrated and ready to call it quits?

Don’t quit. We need your voice. In the end, what it means to be a good writer has less to do with skill and more to do with perseverance. Stick with it; you won’t regret it.

Q: Do you have any new projects that you’d like to share with us?

I’m really excited about my new Snippet, which tells the stories of nine people (via video) who are learning to embrace the in-between moments in life.

I’ll also be offering some limited coaching to the next round of Tribe Writers. Pretty exciting.

Q: How does it feel for some dude on Twitter to broadcast that his 4 year old asked “Hey, isn’t that Luke Skywalker?!” when he saw a picture of you?

Pretty awesome. I’m a huge Star Wars geek.

Thank you, Jeff, for your thoughtful answers and your time. And congratulations on the success of Tribe Writers!

Thanks, Bryan. The honor’s all mine. You’ve done an amazing thing with Positive Writer. I’m a fan.

If you are interested in  Jeff’s highly successful Tribe Writers, you can get more information here. (Registration closes for 2015 on November 19th. Don’t miss it.)

Did you enjoy the interview? Do you have any questions about the Tribe Writers course or self-publishing? Share with us in the comments.

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • Great interview Bryan. Really liked it.

  • Kathy Holzapfel

    Enjoyed this interview, Bryan! Jeff Goins “walks the talk.” I’m eager to read The In-Between – but my want-to-read pile is HUGE. Can you or Jeff comment on how one balances reading/input with creating/output? Do you have a method/benchmark for selectivity? The amount of great content available – books, articles, blogs – has exploded the last few years. (And I do mean “great” – the “not-great” is wonderfully easy to ignore.) I don’t expect, or want, to read it all, but I’m struggling with how to select/limit/filter the meaningful-to-me.

    • I started listening to audio books. It’s helped me manage my reading pile with a little more ease and a little less guilt.

    • Yeah, I listen to audio books in the car, and usually only read print or kindle books just before bed, which is the most enjoyable time for me. I write in the early morning when I am fresh. 🙂

      • Kathy Holzapfel

        Thanks, Bryan! I had a “doh!” moment when I saw that both you and Jeff mentioned audio books. Also a great reminder of the need to produce audio versions of our work.

  • I LOVE this. I am so inspired by Jeff and also this awesome site of yours. Keep up the great work, fellow writer.

    The How to Guru

  • kathunsworth

    Thanks Bryan and Jeff I can say after completing this course, it has changed the way I think about my writing. I am not afraid to call myself a writer anymore and Jeff has sent me on a new path with directions I never thought possible. I have been set free, free to work hard and believe I have something special to share with the world.

  • Bryan, enjoyed your interview with Jeff. Such insightful questions about the writing life, platform and Tribe Writers, something I’m considering strongly this time around. Thanks for continuing to bring the best to our attention.

  • Bryan, asked the questions that cut right to the chase. Thank you. Between you and Jeff, Tribe Writers is summed up nicely. Tribe Writers opened up a world for me that I did not know existed. It broadened my knowledge, it made me realize that I am not alone, that there are people out there that think as I do and together we encourage each other to succeed. To not give up on our dreams. To accept failure when it happens and to persevere no matter what.
    Tribe Writers has our backs.

  • Great interview. I agree with Jeff in most every area. I have grown a bit weary of trying to build a “platform.” In fact, I’ve decided to intentionally work less at building a platform for two reasons.

    1. When I make an effort to build a platform, I tend to try too hard. This can create a style of writing that is not completely my own, but is me trying too hard to be like everyone else trying to build platforms. Does that make sense?

    2. I’m a single dad with a full-time teaching job who just bought his first home. My experience with building a platform as recommended by those who have gone before me requires as much as three hours or more a day. This is time I simply need to use for more important family matters.

    I won’t quit. But I’ll be more intentional about my time.

    • I hear you, Dan. I have a full time job as well. I think a platform of some sort is necessary, and 3 hours a day is time I just don’t have. Creating Positive Writer took quite a bit of time getting it up and running, but I have limited myself on purpose to only 1 or 2 posts a week, and quality guest posts help as well. By doing it this way I have control of how much time I spend working my platform. And, no, please don’t quit! 🙂

  • Penelope Silvers

    I’ve been reading Jeff’s books since I downloaded, “You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)”. This book was one that set me off on my writing journey. It made me ask the question, “Why not me?”

    Thanks, Jeff and Bryan!

  • Very interesting interview. I am still navigating this social online universe and haven’t completely embraced the idea of self-pub. What I will say is that I encourage every new author to consider the query process. I have learned much from reading between the (rejection) lines and it has made my writing stronger.

    I think it’s great that you encourage everyone, I need all I can get. I worry that there is not enough emphasis placed on honing writing skills, joining critique groups and even the dreaded querying? But, perhaps you are correct, when you say the cream will rise to the top.

    At any rate, I am happy to read this interview and will spend some time finding out more about Jeff Goins.

  • Susan J. Reinhardt

    I’m published through a small, traditional press, but I still encounter readers that pose the question, “Are you self-published?” They visibly relax when they hear I’m not self-published. So, the stigma is alive and well.

    I have nothing against self-publishing, but I think authors going that route have to work twice as hard for acceptance. Hopefully, we’ll see more quality. As readers are pleasantly surprised, they won’t be hesitant to plunk down their hard-earned money for indie books.

  • “Because you can”. Wonderful interview! It’s very important in the self-publishing market to remain absolutely positive. It’s a long hard game.

  • Nicely paced interview with plenty of useful information. I admire both of you for your missions to keep writers moving through the rough spots. Will be reading and processing everything shared in the days to come. Thanks!

  • Sheila

    I have heard that the incidents of pirating selfpublished ebooks that have become or are becoming successful are very common. This is very offputting to selfpublishing.

    • Sheila, this actually happens more to traditionally published books. It’s a shame but it’s a part of the market now.

      • Sheila

        Are you sure about that Bryan? That’s not what I’m hearing. Surely it’s harder to copy a printed book than an ebook? Ebook is easy-peasy.

        • Sheila

          Ah. The PDF format of pirated works. They are obviously pirated, so the reader must make that choice.

        • I’m certain of it. Nearly all books are available digitally now (Kindle etc). If it’ is digital it can be pirated. Any of the current NYT bestsellers are available for free via file sharing networks. It’s not any hassle to get them if you know how.

          • Sheila

            Right. I didn’t know they were done in both formats now. I tend to buy paperbacks because a. I like them that way. b. because I can’t afford a kindle. 😉

  • amacash

    Really interesting. Thanks for these insights. I’m just getting started https://startswithoutends.wordpress.com/

  • Kevin North

    Great interview! Always nice to be reminded that cream rises to the top. Now all that’s left to do is write an outstanding book…